Raw Pet Food 101
Written by: Russell Blauert
I wanted to do a write-up on the basics of feeding raw to your pet. I think this will be good info for the new raw feeder and the veteran alike. I know that my wife and I learn something new about raw products every single day! I've gotten a lot of questions over the last few months and I hope to answer a lot more with this post. This article is going to touch on the basics of raw such as feeding requirements, feeding amounts, the difference between supplemental and complete and balanced, average prices, preparing raw and brand differences.
Why feed raw? What are the benefits of feeding raw over kibble and can?
Feeding raw has many benefits, the most important of which is it's a more nutritional option for your pet. Cooking food destroys the natural nutrients, enzymes and bacteria(good & bad) that is found in raw foods. Cooking meat is important for humans because we cannot handle the bad bacteria that is found in some meat. In contrast, your pet does not need cooked food because of it's evolution to be a scavenger and hunter. Your dog and cat have extremely short digestive tracks that do not allow bacteria the time to multiply to a significant level. Dogs and cats use what is needed in the food and get rid of the rest and all this happens very quickly.
Kibble was developed for our convenience and not your pet's health. Kibble is generally cooked at temperatures between 160º F and 300º F. The food is cooked to kill bad bacteria that may be found. There are two main problems with this. First, the bad bacteria which may be found is only bad to humans and we aren't going to eat the food. Secondly, cooking food kills good bacteria and lowers nutrient levels. In meats, legumes and vegetables this nutrient loss can be up to 50%. This is bad news for your pets. Because of their short digestive tracks they need nutrient rich food to get proper nutrition and cooked kibble is not the best option.
Another benefit of raw is there is less waste coming out of your pet. The raw meat is used much more efficiently by your pet than kibble because there is little or no fillers in the food. Kibble and cans have rice(or potato, beans, peas, soy OR CORN) mainly as a binder and filler. Cooked food needs a binder or the food would look like a bunch of rice and cooked ground beef in the bottom of a paper bag. The binder is there for our convenience. The rice, potato or CORN acts as a filler as well. The pet food companies need something cheap to fill up those 30 pound bags. The animals use very little of the binders and fillers and everything unused comes out as poo. Thirty pounds of corn equals a lot of poo. Raw food eliminates the need for fillers or binders. The food isn't cooked so it can stay together in patties or chubs just like raw hamburger.
There are many, many benefits of raw food for your pet but the last one I'll mention is the reduction of ingredients that is possible. Since raw is so nutrient rich, manufacturers don't need to add a lot of ingredients to make the diet complete. Even Premium 5-Star kibble usually have around 100 individual ingredients!!! Raw foods, because of their inherent nutritional value, can have as few as 10. Smallbatch Raw is a prime example of this. Around 15 ingredients and 1/3 of those come directly from the animal. The other ingredient are all readily identifiable such as kale, carrots, etc. Animals with allergy problems should go to a true "limited ingredient diet" with raw. Reducing the number of things going into your pet and raising the nutrition levels is the best advice for allergy prone animals.
I am overwhelmed by choices, and what is a chub?
Yes, there are a lot of choices when trying to find a raw. Raw companies are numerous and fill every little niche that a discerning customer could imagine. Organic, free-range, exotic meats like ostrich, limited-ingredient, small company and all USA products are just some of the different options you'll run into. First and foremost, raw is better than kibble. It just is. That is step one. Any raw that you can feed is contributing to the better health of your pet.I am overwhelmed by choices, and what is a chub?
Raw generally comes in three different forms.
First and the most commonly bought is the "patty". It looks like a hamburger patty and usually weighs 8oz (1/2 lb). Sometimes they weight 4oz. Patties are a very convenient option.
Another way that raw is formed is into 1 oz "nuggets" or "medallions". They are the easiest option for small dogs or for adding to kibble.
And lastly, the chub. Chubs come in weights from 1 pound up to 10 pounds. They require a longer defrost time but are popular because of the cheaper price per pound. The manufacturer spends less money making chubs because it's just a tube of frozen meat so in turn the retail price is less.
We carry a lot of different raw brands. I'll go over the current ones in our store and the highlights of each.
Primal: Very honest about where products are sourced from. Lots of options and lots of organic ingredients.
Nature's Variety: High meat to vegetable ratio(95% Meat / 5% Fruits Vegetables). Relatively low cost for quality products.
Bravo: Bulk raw at good prices including 10 pound chubs. Lots of chub options.
Halshan: Local company, exoctic meats.
OC Raw: Local company, exotic meats.
Rad Cat: The #1 selling raw for cats. Cats just like it better than most other brands.
Smallbatch: Lots or organic ingredients, small company from San Francisco.
Stella & Chewy's: Great brand, similar to Nature's Variety with great freeze dried line.
K9 Kraving: Good raw at a great price point.
How much do I feed? What is the difference between supplemental and complete & balanced?
The number one question I get is: How much does my dog need to eat a day? Your dog or cat will eat a different amount of raw as opposed to kibble or can. It will also very depdningon the type of raw you are feeding. Here is the general rule: Your dog will eat 1 pound of raw per day for every 50 pounds of weight. So, here is an approximate formula to go by:
Dog's weight / 50 = pounds of raw per day
A healthy average weight cat will eat about 1/2 pound of raw every day. Remember, all cats are different and require different amounts of food. Since there is a wide range of raw's price the cost to feed will also range. Usually raw costs between $2/pound and $5/pound. A 50 pound dog exclusively on raw will cost between $60 and $150 to feed depending on the brand and protein source. A lot of people feed half raw and half kibble and that will reduce your cost slightly. Remember: raw is similar in price to cans and similar in price to premium kibble. You will most likely save hundreds of dollars every year in decreased vet bills so don't let the price scare you. I'd like to write about the difference between complete and balanced and supplemental. Just like it sounds, complete & balanced is formulated to be the only thing that your pet eats. We always recommend that you feed raw bones and turkey necks in addition to any diet that your pet is on but the manufacturer stands by it's product as a complete diet.
"Supplemental feeding only" is a term used by manufacturers that means that other items must be introduced into your pet's diet for them to receive all the necessary nutrition. The main items you will find bearing this label are chubs. A lot of people just want to add some raw to their pet's diet and the easiest and most cost effective way to do that are through "grinds" that come in the chub form. Bravo's Original Chubline is a good example of this. It has meat, organ, bone and vegetables mixed together. It is almost a complete diet. The only thing lacking is vitamins to complete the diet. Because of the lack of some ingredients the price is a little cheaper than complete & balanced diets. Most brands of raw have "grind" options for a lower price than their complete & balanced lines.
Sounds good, how do I switch to raw?
Ok, you've heard enough, you want to switch to a raw diet. Great, that's what I was hoping you'd say! We recommend that you slowly transition your pet's diet to raw. That means mixing in only a little bit of raw at the beginning and ramping up the amount over a week or two. As the amount of raw goes up remember to lower the amount of kibble or your pet will over-eat. I would suggest for a 50 pound dog to mix in 1 oz on day one and go up by 1 oz per day.
Raw is meant to be eaten by your pet raw. Don't cook it! That is defeating the purpose of feeding raw. The easiest way to deal with defrosting is to break your raw into one-day portions and put one day's worth of raw into the refrigerator each night when you feed you pet. So you feed a bag out of the refrigerator and then you place the frozen meal for the next day into the refrigerator. Repeat the process each day.
Your pet might experience some loose stool at the beginning. Some dogs are more sensitive to diet changes but they will adapt quickly. Mix in some pure pumpkin or pure sweet potato as a natural stomach soother. Raw goat milk is also an excellent option for dogs and cat with digestive issues or an upset stomach. Raw goat milk is packed with probiotic that will aid in deigection and help your pet get the most out of food they eat.
Thanks for your time and I hope that you learned something by reading this post. Please comment below or click my name to email us at email@example.com.